Friday, August 3, 2012

Public Readings - Jordyn Wieber golden when it counts

Public Readings - Jordyn Wieber golden when it counts. They were emerging from the tunnel for the victory ceremony to the acoustic piano strains of “Chariots of Fire.” Jordyn Wieber was out front, leading the parade to the podium where the U.S. women’s gymnastics team soon would be receiving its Olympic gold medals.

Her family had worked their way down to get as close as they could, all the way to Section 103 at the North Greenwich Arena. Jordyn’s youngest sister, 12-year-old Kyra, was crying.

“Jordyn!” yelled David Wieber, Jordyn’s father.

“We love you, Jordyn!” screamed her mother, Rita.

Just then, 17-year-old Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt — whose family hadn’t seen her since she left the arena floor in tears Sunday after failing to advance to the individual all-around finals — glanced over her left shoulder to the direction of her family. They saw her smile.

Perhaps she couldn’t make them all out in darkness, but Wieber knew they were there.

Then the announcement, the final affirmation of what she already had known — how a team goal was far more important than an individual one.

“…Gold medalists and Olympic champions … the United States of America! Jordyn Wieber! Gabrielle Douglas! McKayla Maroney! Alexandra Raisman! Kyla Ross!” 

“Oh, my God,” Rita Wieber exclaimed. “I think I’m going to pass out.”

Yes, here are your Olympic champions, something that hasn’t happened since the 1996 Atlanta Games, when the Magnificent Seven became the first American women’s gymnastics team to claim the crown.

“To have this gold medal around my neck, it’s an incredible feeling,” Wieber said after the victory ceremony. “It’s not just one of us, it’s the five of us.”

She was asked how the medal felt.

Wieber looked down and smiled.

“It’s heavy,” she said.
A team for the ages

So there’s your answer.

For two days, the prevailing question in gymnastics wasn’t whether Gabby Douglas or Aly Raisman could win the Olympic all-around title Thursday, but rather whether Wieber — the defending world champion — could recover in time for Tuesday’s team final after Sunday’s setback, when she finished behind her U.S. teammates in qualifying. Only two gymnasts per country can advance in the all-around, and despite the fourth-best overall score, Wieber was destined to be a spectator, not a participant.

Wieber’s answer Tuesday came not with words, but by her performance.

On a team hailed by none other than Bela Karolyi as the best ever — and he was the architect of the 1996 squad — Wieber joined her teammates Tuesday in delivering clutch routines when they needed them most.

They were helped in the end by Russia, which had pulled to within 1.299 points of the Americans after the third of four rotations. Competing head-to-head on the same apparatus all afternoon, the Russians suffered a major meltdown on floor exercise. In a three-up, three-count scoring format, Aliya Mustafina, Anastasia Grishina and Kseniia Afanaseva could do no better than 14.800, 12.466 and 14.333.

And the three Americans on floor — in order, Douglas, Wieber and Raisman — nailed their routines: 15.066, 15.000 and 15.300.

That was the difference.

The final team totals: The U.S. amassed 183.596 points, followed by Russia (178.530) and Romania (176.414), which was just ahead of 2008 Olympic champion China (174.430).

“Kind of apropos — five points for the Fab Five,” said John Geddert, referring to the margin of victory between the Americans and the Russians and the nickname attached to this U.S. squad.

Geddert, the U.S. Olympic head coach, is also Wieber’s personal coach at Gedderts’ Twistars USA in Dimondale, 14 miles from her home in DeWitt. He echoed what Karolyi and his wife, Martha — the U.S. women’s national team coordinator — had said earlier, that the team could go down in history as the best ever.

“I was just adding up, between worlds and Olympics, this core team is 56-for-56 in hit routines when it counts, between prelims and finals,” Geddert said. “They have not made a mistake on the podium. That’s what gets you gold. That’s a machine.”

Geddert, who has coached Wieber since she was 8, said he knew she would bounce back after Sunday’s disappointment, when she was overtaken by Raisman after a committing a stream of tiny mistakes.
Off on the right foot

Wieber, nursing an injury to her right shin (her coach says it may be a stress fracture), opened the competition for her team Tuesday as the first up on the vault. She delivered a huge Amanar that scored 15.933 points and seemed to light a fire for Douglas (15.966) and Maroney (16.233). Those would be the top-three scores all day.

On the next rotation, uneven bars, Wieber led off again. But this time, her routine wasn’t her strongest (14.666). That might have affected the next performer as well. Next up, Ross scored 14.933, but then Douglas — called the Flying Squirrel — came through with a big routine worth 15.200 points.

Wieber didn’t compete on the balance beam, the next event, but Ross, Douglas and Raisman delivered solid routines to set up Team USA’s dazzling performance on floor exercise after the Russians crumbled under the pressure.

When Raisman, as the last competitor, was on floor, Wieber cheered for her teammate as if she were at a football game. Raisman is Wieber’s roommate and best friend, and as the gymnast stuck tumbling pass after tumbling pass, Wieber raised her arms, clapped her hands and cheered.

Wieber was asked when she put Sunday’s disappointment behind her. Her coach said it took the gymnast 5 minutes, but Wieber acknowledged it took longer.

“At first I just kind of had to stay to myself and just be able to mentally turn it around and do it for the team,” she said. “We only had one day in between prelims and finals. I just had to stay in my little bubble and get refocused.

“Everything was fine the next day.”